This is a continuation of part of a handwritten diary kept by Esau Johnson, 1800-1882 who lived on Allison Prairie from 1811-1815.
"There was another man by the name of Thomas Hobs, came there from where this Howard family had lived. He said to Mr. William Howard, you buy out Mr. Johnson and I will give you $200 for 20 acres and you sell to me so as to let me come to the well. Father had offered to sell to Mr. Howard for $400. Mr. Howard then came and bought out Father.
"The next day, father bought out a Lewis Gowen for $200, adjoining the place he sold to Mr. Howard, that had nearly as much improvements on it as the one he sold to Mr. Howard. Gowen gave possession right off and Father moved on to that place. Mr. Howard had two boys near the age of my brother, John and we got intimate with them.
"Mr. Howard had one large dog and Hobs had two. We said, when the furs got good, we would catch raccoons with the dogs. Father had one that we had caught some raccoons with the winter or spring before.
"Brother John and I went out one morning in the month of February, 1813, with our dog hunting. As soon as we got to the big swamp we heard our dog commence barking. We knew from his bark that he had caught one on the ground. We went to him and as we got close to him, he took hold of it to kill it. He would not kill one till we would come to him. As it began to squeal, I saw another one running up a small tree close by.
"When our dog had killed that one, I went and climbed the little tree to shake off the other, but it went way out on a small limb and did cling so close to it that I could not shake it loose. So I took my knife out of my pocket, opened it and cut the limb off and threw it down with it. The dog killed that one while I was getting down from the tree. We started our dog and directly we heard him bark again.
"We went to him and he was barking at the lower end of a soft maple that had a hollow in the butt of it and leaned over very much. I went to chopping on the upper side of it. When I cut into the hollow some half way through, it began to crack and split till it broke and fell to the ground. There were two raccoons in it.
"Then daylight began to show pretty plain and we said we would go home. We had as many as we could well carry home. We started to go out of the swamp and heard our dog bark again, we went to him and he was barking at the root of a large willow tree that had a big round swell on its root, some 3 feet across to it. There was a hole in one side of it, but not large enough for the dog to get at it.
"I cut the hole so the dog could get in. He went in and began to fight in the tree. Soon he came out bringing a big old he raccoon with him. I heard something else in there, I stood at the hole with my axe in my hand so as not to let anything get out as soon as he had killed the one, he went back in and brought out another one.
"Still I heard something else in there. When he made an end of that one, he went and got another one. Still there was something in the willow root yet. After killing the third one, he came and went in and brought a fourth one out. Then we took all of them to where we had left the other four.
"We said that we could not carry them all home, so we hung them up there, said we would go home, get a horse and cutter and come back for them. We went home, told father what we had done and we wanted to go and get them. Father said we should let them stay till tomorrow morning, get up before dawn, take our Nellie and my cutter and go get them and catch some more. That suited us well.
"We got up before daybreak, took the mare and cutter and went. Soon after we started, we heard our dog bark. He had gone on ahead and got two raccoons up one little soft maple tree just at the edge of the swamp. I climbed it and made one of them jump down and the dog caught it.
"The other one, when that one began to squeal, climbed up as high as it could climb, and then came down close to where I was out on a limb, stopped there till the dog had killed the one that I had made jump down. I went up the tree until I got both feet on the limb the raccoon was on and begin to jump on it. The raccoon thought it had best get away from the place where it was, so it came towards me till it was within three or four feet of the body of the tree then it jumped for the body of the tree and missed catching it and down it went.
"We kept on till daylight came. By then we had caught eight more, so we had 16 raccoons in all. We put them on the cutter and started for home.
"Soon after starting, we heard our dog bark up on the bluff south of us. We tied the mare and went up on the bluff to him. We had a wildcat up on a leaning white oak tree. I went to it and began to chop on it. The wildcat did not like that so it jumped. The dog caught it as it came to the ground. I ran to him with my axe. I helped him with the axe and we killed it. We then took it, went to where we left the mare and cutter, put in the wildcat and started again for home. (Remember this is a 13 year old boy taking on a wildcat with an axe.)
"We heard our dog began giving tongue on the bluff ahead of us. We went on and pretty soon we saw a deer coming toward us along the edge of the bluff, where it could not get up. When it saw us, it turned out onto the marsh where it was all glare ice. There it slipped and fell and the dog caught it by one ear. The deer bleated with all its power, the dog shaking it by the ear with all his might. I went with the axe to them and knocked it on the head, then we took it to the mare and cutter and went home.
"Then, in the month of March, 1813, my brother John and I went out north to the big swamp that was called Purgatory. There, as we were going along a path, I saw an otter coming, meeting us and caring something black in its mouth.
"I began to call our dog when the otter dropped what it was caring, turned and ran back from us. Then I saw our dog going on its track. He caught the otter but it caught him by one leg and made him holler. I ran to them.
"The thing the otter was carrying and dropped when I came to it was crawling along. I thought it was something the otter had caught and stamped one foot on it as I run going to relieve my dog, for fear of his letting the otter get away from him.
" I helped him to kill the otter and then went back to see what I had stamped on. It was a young otter. It was breathing yet but the blood was running out of its mouth and it soon quit breathing. I was very sorry that I had killed it -I would not have killed it for $10. But it was killed.
"In the spring, a fur merchant came and father sold our furs to him. He got $42 for us and the money he got for one raccoon hide was $.20."
Ed Note: More of this diary will be published later.